Ratich, Wolfgang

Ratich, Wolfgang a distinguished German educator, was born in 1571, at Wilsten, in Holstein. A difficulty in speech compelled him to give up the ministry, for which he had intended fitting himself; and he applied himself to the study of the Hebrew and Arabic languages and mathematics. He claimed to be the inventor of a new system of instruction, vastly superior to the prevailing ones, and in 1612 addressed a memorial to the Diet of Frankfort, in which he asserted that not only could old and young in a short time easily learn Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, philosophy, theology, and the arts and sciences, but that uniformity of language and religion could be introduced into the whole empire. Several princes were led to interest themselves in his scheme. Professors Helwig and Jung, of Giessen, and Granger, Brendel, Walter, and Wolf, of Jena, were invited to investigate it. They judged it excellent in theory, and made a favorable report upon it. Ratich agreed with prince Ludwig of Anhalt-Kithen and duke John Ernest of Weimar to instruct children by his new system, and also by it to qualify teachers to give instruction in any language, in less time and with less labor than by any other method used in Germany. A printing-office was furnished him in Kbthen, and his books were printed in six languages. A school was established for him, with one hundred and thirty-five scholars. But Ratich proved incompetent to give practical effect to his theories. He became unpopular, and, being an earnest Lutheran, fell under the ban of the religious prejudices of a community attached to the Reformed faith. His school failed in a short time. Prince Ludwig quarrelled with him, and, in 1619, imprisoned him but he was released in 1620, after having signed the declaration that "he had claimed and promised more than he knew or could bring to pass." His system was now attacked by some who had been his friends. The countess Sophia von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, however, recommended him to the Swedish chancellor, Oxenstierna. At the request of that statesman, Drs. BrUckner, Meyfart, and Ziegler examined his method; and they again made a favorable report upon it in 1634. Ratich, without doubt, had a practical conception of the objects of education. He preferred to give instruction in those branches which could be made useful in life rather than to pay so much attention to the dead languages. In his memorial to the Diet at Frankfort, he held that a child should first learn to read and speak the mothertongue correctly, so as to be able to use the German Bible. Hebrew and Greek should then be learned as tie tongues of the original text of the Bible, after whlich Latin might be studied. His views were embodied in a number of rules, or principles, the chief of which are: 1. Everything should be presented in its order, a due regard being always had to the course of nature. 2. Only one thing should be presented at a time. 3. Each thing should be often repeated. 4. Everything should be taught at first in the mothertongue; afterwards other languages may be taught. 5. Everything should be done without compulsion. 6. Nothing should be learned by rote. 7. There should be mutual conformity in all things. 8. First the thing by itself, and afterwards the explanation of it; that is to say, a basis of material must be laid in the mind befire any rules can be applied to it. Thus, in teaching grammar, he gave no rules, but began with the reading of the text, and required that the rules should be deduced from it. 9. Everything by expression, and the investigation by parts. In his Methodus he has left minute directions to teachers concerning the details of the course, and the proper methods of instruction; but they are very prolix, and impose an immense amount of labor on the teacher, without seeming to call for a corresponding degree of exertion on the part of the pupil. Comenius, after reading his book, remarked that he "had not ill displayed the faults of the school, but that his remedies weire not distinctly shown." Ratich's works were written in Latin, and are diffuse, tedious, and somewhat pedantic. He died in 1635. See Biographie Universelle, s.v.

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